Friday, June 24, 2016

Gamehole Con registration starts tomorrow

Registration for Gamehole Con 2016 opens this Saturday, June 25 at noon CST. Gamehole is a fast-growing RPG convention in Madison, Wisconsin on November 4th-6th. Alex Kammer, the con's organizer, asked all of us special guests to spread the word about the convention's registration, so I am dutifully doing so.

Gamehole is an excellent convention, and a great place for OSR folks to meet each other and game. I met lots of cool people last year, and I was pretty psyched to be invited as a special guest this year.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

OSRIC is Ten!

Allan Grohe has pointed out that OSRIC is 10 years old today. Man, it seems like it was only a few weeks ago that Stuart Marshall and I released it ... with the expectation that only fifty or sixty people would ever find a use for something as weird as this "retro-clone" thing we had dreamed up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Small Publisher Tip: The term "Full Bleed"

If you're like me, as a small publisher, you're learning some sides of the business in bits and pieces. In my case, I had the writing skill, but no graphics or printing knowledge. And sometimes, if you're learning things in bits and pieces, you'll get the wrong understanding of some of the jargon used by the other guys involved in the process. In fact, the better they are, the more likely that they'll assume you know something you don't.

In my case, one of these misunderstandings was about the term "bleed," when applied to printing a cover. I managed to go at least three years with a mistaken understanding of what this meant. As far as I understood it, "bleed" was just a layout artist's weird way of saying that the artwork was supposed to go to the edges of the page. Almost all the time, you can tell an artist that the graphic is "full bleed," and they'll just say, "okay," and you'll get what you need.

However, it becomes an issue if you want two pages to lie next to each other and match up at the borders (this is how my mistake got revealed). Because here's what "bleed" really means:

When the artist produces something with full bleed, it means the graphic is actually bigger than the space you want to fill. It's slightly larger, in the case of cover art, than 8.5 x 11. Part of the artwork is designed to spill off the edge of the page, and this is called the "bleed."

What's that all about? Isn't this whole process digital? Well. if you think about it, there's one part of the process that isn't entirely digital. Think about how, when you print a document, your home printer shakes a bit as it moves blank paper into place and prints on it. The presses used by book printers do the same thing. They vibrate, they shake, and they jiggle while printing. Thus, the page of paper can't be guaranteed to be EXACTLY in the right place. The bleed is a bit of excess picture that will get printed if the page is off center by a fraction or two of an inch. If the graphic is precisely and exactly the size of a sheet of paper, you risk having a white line along one side if the paper is off center in any direction.

So, if you're printing on lulu or somewhere similar, and you've ween white lines along one edge or another of the cover, it's because you didn't have any bleed outside the margins of the page.

This little note will probably only help a few people who make the same mistake I did, but since it happened to me, it might have happened to other publishers with no graphic/layout experience.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventure Design Starting Points

I've had several people ping me in the last couple of days, including my Sorcerer's Apprentice, about starting points for designing an adventure. From talking to lots of gifted people over the last few years, I think I can definitely say that there is no objective "right" starting point. The most common things I have heard tend to divide between those who write monsters first, and those who draw maps first.

In my case, it's usually the map first, starting with really tentative sketches. Then coming up with a basic idea and writing it as the "Background" just so there are words on the blank page (a completely blank page is a real inhibitor for creativity).

Then I put some numbers on the map and begin filling in what's in those numbers. This process totally changes the background, and it often means going back to earlier encounter areas and changing them to match the new ideas that are developing. There's a lot of inefficient re-writing, but usually it's worth it as the adventure develops into something I really didn't expect at the beginning.

The final product is usually completely different from the starting point, and being surprised by the outcome is definitely part of the fun of writing an adventure. You never know what you're going to find in your own head.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sometimes I don't know why things are important

When I first wrote OSRIC, I couldn't put my finger on why I felt it was so important. I've got another interesting example of that, on a smaller scale, and I'd love to hear some input.

I'm working with a teenager who's writing their first module for general consumption. The very first thing I did -- and I don't know why -- was to have them open a commercial module and read it for 5 minutes, telling me what they were looking at as they went.

The result was a lesson that most of us know. No one reads a module sequentially. You flip around from introduction, to maps, to interesting locations you see on the map, etc.

What I don't know is why I felt so intently that this was a FIRST lesson in writing a module.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fathers Day Sale at Tabletop Library

The coupon code is Fathers-25 at TabletopLibrary.com. 25% off, now through Monday.

Neat idea re: wandering monsters

In most old-school games, especially in the types of sandbox adventure where there's no time sensitive mission involved, wandering monsters provide the only disincentive for spending infinite amounts of time checking every wall and every item, thereby eroding some of the crucial decisions that make the game fun. Wandering monsters are, essentially, the measurement of time ticking.

Many people don't like wandering monsters because the whole concept is a bit unrealistic -- infinite numbers of monsters roaming around? But they play an important structural role in a sandbox adventure, one that needs a substitute if you eliminate the concept based on realism.

Over at The Dragon's Flagon, Waywardwayfarer has proposed a tiny little trick for making the wandering monster checks a bit easier to track. It's basically a change in probabilities so that the check can always be made each turn instead of using one check on staggered turns.

Take a look - it's simple and elegant.